I have been reading and studying a lot of materials about learning. I'm interested in writing a book (in a language different than the original) explaining the same concepts in different ways.

In other words, I want to "dumb" down the combination of multiple original works into a simplest, more digestible, version of it and sell it.

The original work is American.

Am I breaking any laws here?

  • Please see the canonical meta question before answering. – Tim Lymington Oct 8 '17 at 21:27
  • This is not entirely subject-matter independent either. Certain ideas with functional utility and laws of science are not subject to copyright. You couldn't, for example, copyright Einstein's field equations even if they had been first committed to writing in 1928 in the U.S. instead of 1917-18 abroad. Without more detail it isn't clear where "materials about learning" would fit in relation to those matters that can't be protected by copyright (or trademark, for that matter). – ohwilleke Oct 9 '17 at 23:57

Please note that I am not a lawyer.

First of all, ideas are not copyrightable, only their expression is.

Second, in order not to be plagiarism, a work has to be "transformative." That is, it has to be "different enough from the original so that one could not get directly from the original version to yours.

The original author retains "translation" rights, so if you did a "straight" translation that anyone else could approximate, then your work would be plagiarism because it is not "transformative."

But if you changed the contexts, used a lot of local idiom, and "dumbed down" the original concepts into different versions so that it could not be more or less reproduced by a "translation," that would probably be transformative.

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  • 2
    Also, if the new work is a synthesis of several other works (as most non-fiction works are) this goes a long way to demonstrating transformation. – Dale M Oct 8 '17 at 21:42
  • I don't see how local idiom helps. That's nothing more than translation, isn't it? – phoog Oct 8 '17 at 21:45
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    @phoog: I once translated (non-published), "I am as normal as blueberry pie" into Chinese that "back translates" as "I am as common as dim sum." That changes the meaning and is probably "transformative." The answer to the canonical meta question law.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/541/… is that to be original, one needs a "spark" of creativity, as opposed to straight "copying" or "correspondence." Also, that was one of "several" transformative elements (taken together). – Libra Oct 8 '17 at 21:52

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